LAKE CHARLES — McKinley coach Harold Boudreaux said his game plan was solid. The Panthers needed to limit Ja’Vonte Smart’s scoring opportunities and make their shots.
Top-seeded Scotlandville High turned that plan upside down and claimed a 58-42 victory over No. 4 McKinley in a Division I semifinal that tipped off Thursday’s action at the LHSAA boys basketball tournament.
“I thought our energy was good, similar to 2017,” Boudreaux said. “I thought we’d be talking about a victory right now, but that’s not the case. I thought the scheme was good. Ja’Vonte Smart … very smart player. I think they adjusted to what we were doing.”
Smart scored a game-high 32 points, making 16 of 18 free throws, to go with four assists and four rebounds as Scotlandville (27-5) won the battle of Baton Rouge rivals to advance to an LHSAA title game for the ninth straight year. Reece Beekman added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Hornets.
Scotlandville faces St. Paul’s at 6 p.m. Saturday at Burton Coliseum seeking its third title in four years and fifth overall. SPHS beat Catholic High 59-52 in the other Division I semifinal Thursday.
“My intensity level … I’ve got to bring it first because my teammates need me,” Smart said. “If I go out there and play my hardest and be a leader, they’re going to follow my lead.”
Shooting was a key issue for McKinley, a year removed from falling three points short of upsetting Scotlandville. The Panthers (22-11) made just 25 percent of their shots (15 of 60) and shot less than 20 percent in the second and third quarters when the Hornets of District 4-5A built their lead. Tyrece Radford led McKinley of District 5-5A with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Damien Mitchell contributed 10 points for MHS.
“It was game of runs. We kind of got away from assignments (in the first quarter),” Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample said. “I think in the second, third and fourth quarters we controlled the boards for the most part. I thought we did a good job running our three-quarters trap and zone. It kept them on their heels just a bit. Ja’Vonte, as he always does, did a good job running the team.”
Smart made a step-back 3-pointer from NBA range seven seconds into the game. McKinley didn’t score until Fred Carr countered with a 3-pointer with 3:36 left in the first quarter. Scotlandville led 7-3, but the Panthers scored seven of the final 12 points in the period and took a 10-8 lead into the second quarter.
A Radford jumper extended McKinley’s lead to 12-8 less than a minute into the second quarter. Scotlandville took over and outscored the Panthers 13-2 the rest of the way. Tai’Reon Joseph’s breakaway layup off a baseball pass from Smart was among the highlights.
Smart scored 10 third-quarter points. The Hornets also got a boost from Beekman, who scored 11 of his 13 in the second half. McKinley’s Boudreaux was left to lament missed shots, many near the rim.
“It was like there was a lid on it (the basket),” Radford said.
The Panthers’ 3 of 18 shooting in the third quarter gave Scotlandville the opening needed to expand its lead 17 points at 38-21.
Smart and McKinley’s Damien Mitchell were assessed technical fouls after Mitchell was called for an intentional foul with 5:45 remaining. Smart made both free throws and added a 3-pointer seconds later to keep McKinley at arm’s length.